The Kirk

FROST AT MIDNIGHT
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.


Rick WilcoxWhen William Faulkner said “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” he might have been thinking of Coleridge.  As a precocious child, he read the Bible at three years of age and possessed an enormous capacity for memorization.

Further, his voracious appetite for books was fed by his aunt’s little business.  In a letter he wrote:

My Father’s Sister kept an every-thing Shop at Crediton—and there I read thro’ all the gilt-cover little books that could be had at that time, & likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant-killer, &c & &c &c &c—/——and I used to lie by the wall, and mope—and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly, & in a flood—& then I was accustomed to run up and down the church-yard, and act over all I had been reading on the docks, the nettles, and the rank-grass.—At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, & Philip Quarle [Quarll]—and then I found the Arabian Nights’ entertainments—one tale of which (the tale of a man who was com- pelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres, whenever I was in the dark—and I distinctly remember the anxious & fearful eagerness, with which I used to watch the window, in which the books lay—& whenever the Sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, & bask, & read—

All of this was planted into the soul of a child already in love with God through his upbringing as a vicar’s son.  As Malcolm Guite wrote:

If the mariner was to see the kirk itself drop away below the horizon as he set off on his voyage, he would still find that the deep structure of Christian thought, its heights and depths, its loss and redemption, would always be with him…

The Christianity into which Coleridge was born, to which he would eventually return, and which he himself would profoundly renew and re-envisage, was not some narrow bigotry or closed-down, text-bound literalism. Coleridge’s local vicar was not a flat-earther. John Coleridge was familiar with the great developments in astronomy that had taken place during his lifetime. He did not see the working of reason or the enlargement of the mind through the discoveries of science as in any sense a threat to his faith.

Were you raised in a religious home?

How does your answer now inform your life?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

Storm Chaser

THE OPTIMIST’S DAUGHTER
Eudora Welty

“Up home we loved a good storm coming, we’d fly outdoors and run up and down to meet it,” her mother used to say. “We children would run as fast as we could go along the top of that mountain when the wind was blowing, holding our arms right open. The wilder it blew the better we liked it.”

Luke18:1

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.


RickToday is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Eudora Welty. She was cut from Faulkner’s cloth, but was a little more accessible and significantly more sober. Born in Jackson Mississippi in 1909, she lived 92 rich years until passing away in 2001. She wrote about the South in ways only a Southerner can appreciate.

Like me, she fell in love with books before she could read them because she loved a good story.  She said

Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.

There’s power in a story, like power in a storm.  We first feel it in the air and hear its thunder in the distance.  By the time the wind and rain come, we are completely drawn in and all we want to do is sit on a porch swing and watch it fall.

Jesus understood that power.  He was a wonderful storyteller.  I love this exchange between Him and the disciples recorded in Matthew 13:10-13 (The Message) –

“The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. “

Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories.

Join the discussion on Facebook HERE 

Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 


 

D I G  D E E P E R


Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty

(1909–2001). The short stories and novels of Eudora Welty are normally set in a small Mississippi town that resembles her own birthplace of Jackson and the nearby Delta country. Like the work of fellow Mississippian William Faulkner, Welty’s writing takes on universal themes: the intricacy of human relationships and the qualities of character often hidden beneath a surface of insensitivity and social prejudice.

Welty was born on April 13, 1909. She was educated at the Mississippi State College for Women, the University of Wisconsin, and Columbia University’s school of advertising. She worked as a writer for a Jackson radio station and newspaper before her fiction won the praises of critics. Her first short story appeared in 1936. From then on her work appeared regularly in such journals as the Southern Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. Her first collection, A Curtain of Green, was published in 1941. Her novels include Delta Wedding (1946), The Ponder Heart (1954), Losing Battles (1970), and The Optimist’s Daughter (1972), which won a Pulitzer prize.

What is voice?

If style is the flesh of writing, voice is its breath. “The best writing,” Peter Elbow observes, “has voice: the life and rhythms of speech.” For author Eudora Welty, “voice” is “the sound that falls on the page” as one writes and reads what one has written.  Yet when applied to writing, “voice” is a metaphor whose roots reach deep into the soil of orality. For Greek and Roman students of rhetoric whose goal was eloquence in public speaking, “style” itself was “voiced” (recall that the Latin word for style is elocutio, from which our word “elocution” comes). For contemporary writers, however, “voice” is more broadly conceived as “a composite of all the rhetorical and stylistic techniques a writer chooses, consciously or unconsciously, to use to present his or her self to an audience.” More specifically, Peter Elbow distinguishes “five senses of ‘voice’ as it is applied to writing: (1) audible voice (the sounds in a text); (2) dramatic voice (the character or implied author in a text); (3) recognizable or distinctive voice; (4) voice with authority; (5) resonant voice or presence.” All of these senses relate and resonate in that finely tuned instrument that we call the writer’s “voice.”

 

Sources & Resources

Lucretia B. Yaghjian, Writing Theology Well: A Rhetoric for Theological and Biblical Writers, Second Edition. (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 279–280.

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty appeared in 1980. The Eye of the Story (1978) is a volume of her essays. In 1984 Welty published an autobiography, One Writer’s Beginnings, based on a series of lectures. She died in Jackson on July 23, 2001.

“Welty, Eudora,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Suffering That Saves

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“Suffering is not a punishment,” Robert Ingersoll wrote, “it is a result.” Suffering, we learn as we go, is the price we pay to bring life to fullness, both for others and for ourselves. It is not to be desired in a neurotic kind of way, but it is definitely not to be denied. For when we refuse to suffer, we refuse to grow. Suffering requires us to stretch our souls to the boundaries of personal growth. It brings to the surface in us both strengths and weaknesses we could never, in any other way, know we have. It is not about surrendering ourselves to pain left devoid of meaning. It is about finding meaning in the center of the self whatever the stresses around us.

~Joan Chittister, from The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life—the Ancient Practices Series


In Requiem For A Nun, William Faulkner wrote “The salvation of the world is in man’s suffering.”  A part of us acknowledges the wisdom of this saying as we consider the great sacrifices many have made for the betterment of others, yet we know it isn’t enough.  The noblest efforts of our greatest men cannot begin to reconcile the great gulf between us and God brought about by our rebellion.  In the end, only the suffering of Jesus can save us, and our highest aspiration is to humbly accept the gift of grace and to live a life in grateful service.

The life of Jesus is not a monument to the past; it is an invitation to the fullness of our own futures.

 

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Philippians 3:12–14

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Art: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1590s, Studio of El Greco

Christ kneels in the centre; at the upper left an angel appears to him with a cup, a reference to his forthcoming Passion. In the background on the left are the sleeping apostlesPeter, James the Greater and John; on the right Judas approaches with soldiers.
The painting is a synthesis of varying accounts of the Agony in the Gospels and is probably a workshop replica of a painting in the Museum of Toledo (Ohio). There are also several authentic vertical versions of this composition.
 

Literature:  There are two ways of approaching the contemporary models. Concepts such as “sacrifice”, “ransom” and “satisfaction”, that is, aids to understanding employed by biblical and ancient thought that are now no longer intelligible, can be replaced by other concepts that are clearer to modern man. Alternatively, the attempt can be made to bridge the gulf that yawns wider and wider (up to Anselm and his successors) between the person and work of Jesus and the rest of mankind, contrary to the Fathers’ original intuition of the commercium, the union of God and man through the “exchange of places”. If both attempts are taken together, it should be possible to come up with a promising new approach that would present the original theologico-historical plan in a radical (retrospective) form. This would promote the most satisfactory reflection possible on the biblical themes we have enumerated.

Looking at the history of modern times, we are inclined to doubt whether these two new paths, each of which has led to appreciable individual results, can be said to converge automatically on a synthesis (and, in any case, such a synthesis, of its very nature, cannot and must not be a “system”). In fact, the two approaches seem to be essentially opposed. The first model, which aims to provide a new set of aids to understanding centering on the idea of Jesus’ solidarity with mankind, takes its bearings primarily from his humanity and his active ministry. The second model, which wants to follow up the commercium theme in a radical way and insist on full substitution, looks primarily at the Cross as interpreted by Paul: here the full Godhead of the person of Jesus is the decisive factor.

Like the ancient and medieval worlds, the modern world is quite aware, when it comes to contemplating the mystery of Christ, that it is circling around the center of the drama in which God and man are involved. Even in the purely human drama, the two themes concern central, dramatic situations. On the one hand, we have the kind of solidarity that goes the whole way—that is, to death—as at the end of Dostoyevsky’s Idiot or in King Lear; and, on the other hand, there is the representative suffering that is found (both in its religious and in its social aspect) in Euripides, which Faulkner and Camus (Requiem for a Nun) have convincingly portrayed in our own time.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, from Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory: The Action, trans. Graham Harrison, vol. 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 266–267.